OUTDOOR JOURNAL: Carp can really put up a fight

What the heck. I wasn’t doing anything so why not mosey down to the dock and wet a line?

Having the dock in the backyard sometimes makes it too easy to mosey, but that depends on your viewpoint. On this occasion I just grabbed the closest fishing rig, which turned out to be a St. Croix ultra-light rod with very light line. The lure was a tiny chrome spoon that I often used for crappie fishing. I didn’t even take my tackle bag. After all I was just killing a little time.

Since the Barbie J was nestled at the dock I just parked my derriere on her stern platform and half heartedly flipped out the little lure. I had only made a couple turns of the reel when I had a strike. Or was it a snag?

But then snags don’t move and whatever I had hooked decided to head for open water. The fairy wand of rod bent almost double and I feared that it would snap. The reel’s drag screamed and I quickly back reeled to relieve the pressure.

There was no time to check my watch, but I’m sure the struggle lasted at least 10 or 15 minutes before I could see a bronze shape beneath the surface. This was definitely a fish more suited to heavy tackle, but the ultra-light rod stood up to the battle until eventually the big carp was close enough for the landing net.

The fight proved two things to me. First, anyone who says the carp is not a game fish has never hooked one on light tackle. A big carp will not present a display of aerobatics, but there is power in those copper clad bodies that rivals the strength of any game fish.

The second thing I learned was that by playing a fish carefully you can land some big ones on ultra-light tackle. I think most anglers use tackle that is much heavier than needed. Memories of my youthful fishing adventures include reels full of snarled heavy line, metal casting rods and sinkers big enough to anchor a battleship. I’m amazed that we ever caught a fish.

Today I rig up much lighter. I consider 8-pound test line as the heaviest I will use, and I seldom go above 6 pound. My ultra-light rigs are spooled with 4-pound test, and sometimes I drop down to 2 pound. I think I had 4-pound test line on the rig that caught the carp.

An interesting treatise on light rods and line can be found it the book Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers. The author actually runs tests whereby heavy objects are lifted by light action rods using light line. I use the author’s test results as I choose my own line, but I don’t plan to try the tests with my personal rods. I am content to let the author risk his expensive rods while I save mine for fishing.

And, if you think the only way to catch carp is to set on the bank and dunk doughball, just re-read last Tuesday’s Newspapers in Education in the Morning Journal. There is a lot of information on carp, including that they are omnivorous. That means they eat anything, including minnows.

It explains why I have caught several carp on artificial lures over the years. One bruiser hit a Flatfish lure I was casting for bass in Kentucky Lake. I thought I had hooked the granddaddy of bass until I saw it was a carp.

According to the article, carp have been valued as a human food source for thousands of years. Not so in the U.S. as I only know a few people who will eat carp and that is a shame.

Unfortunately I am among the majority who do not keep carp for the dinner table. Last year I smoked a carp and thought it tasted pretty good. Friends, however, could only be enticed to sample just a pinch of smoked carp, and while they didn’t spit it out, neither did they smack their lips and reach for another piece.

I guess carp will never attain game fish status like a bass, nor will they ever replace walleyes as a delicious tasting fish, but we might as well accept that they are here to stay and make the best of the fact.